Many people in California have established a living trust as a means for distributing their assets to their chosen beneficiaries upon their death. However, even the most carefully thought-out trust can be the subject of trust litigation brought by a beneficiary who believes the trust should rendered invalid. When a beneficiary wants to challenge a trust, they will have to file a lawsuit against all other beneficiaries. This makes challenging a trust more complicated than challenging a will.
For example, to invalidate a will, the person contesting it may argue the decedent was under coercion when the will was signed or that the decedent lacked the mental capacity to create a will. However, since a trust goes into effect while the decedent is still alive, a beneficiary is under the burden of proving that the trust was invalid when it was signed.
Also, there are differences in asset distributions for a trusted versus those for a will. If a will is challenged, the distribution of assets will freeze, and will not restart until a resolution is met. With a trust, even if it is challenged, assets in the trust will keep being distributed pending the resolution of the case.
The death of a loved one is a very emotional time. One’s grief can be compounded if they believe that the deceased’s will or trust should not be enforced. There are differences between challenging a will and challenging a trust. Therefore, it is important to understand what these differences are, so one knows what to expect and how to prepare their case.